Friday, 19 November 2010

Wishing I Was Skinny, Wish The Whole World Knew My Name

We've reached the Boo Radleys in the tour of my hard drive.

I'm very protective of this band. I love their early shoegazey noise-pop, of their cosmic middle period, of their slightly cynical grab for pop fame, of their inevitable decline, and even of their various solo albums.

I partly feel this way because clearly every other band of the 90s loathed them. In particular, Louise Wener's autobiography slates them for being loud Scouse gits with no interest on tour apart from finding the next 'Irish' pub, while Luke Haines (of The Auteurs and other bands) amusingly despises their stoned, footy-loving stupidity and hippy attitudes.

They're probably right - they sound like a bunch of young lads with talent, a bit of cash and adoration, and not much interest in doing anything other than living in the moment. Would any of us be any different? I hope so, but I couldn't guarantee it.

I don't really care - their music stands up to inspection, especially Giant Steps, which I think has the ambition and richness to qualify as one of the great albums of the 90s. Their first album was Ichabod and I - a thrilling bundle of loud pop fuzz in which tunes can occasionally be discerned. There were only 500 copies (vinyl only), so you'll have to hear a few tracks on the Best Of compilation or go here and e-mail the nice gentleman for a copy. That's what I did, and how I wish I could afford the real thing. I've got everything else on lovely vinyl, and some on CD too so I can never be without Every Heaven and Everything's Alright Forever and Learning to Walk - shoegaze masterpieces with a big dollop of pop thrown in.

I have a massive love for covers of New Order and Joy Division tracks: here's the Boos doing 'True Faith', renamed 'Boo Faith'. It's just excellent - and very much of its time. Weirdly, this live session makes the words and tune much clearer than that committed to vinyl.

Giant Steps is the Great Leap Forward, however. Being Liverpudlians, they'd been forced to listen to the Beatles, and you can really tell: pop tunes from the Hamburg Days, production from Revolution No. 9. Add to this an acceptable slice of reggae, some Eno, a bit of Ozric Tentacles and a lot of echo for a profound, often melancholic but always catchy examination of postmodern life. Pressing play on 'Wishing I Was Skinny' transports me - madeleine-like - back to being a first-year student by the North Wales seaside, in a grotty shared house, 1970s record player on the floor beside the bed and being blissfully happy (and very skinny too, which didn't last long). My belongings consisted of about 10 records, a lot of books (or so I thought then), black DMs, black jeans, black shirt, black biker's jacket that I probably shouldn't wear ever again, and very long black hair. I was free of my appalling school and the scum who taught and were taught there, and the world was my whelk.

After that came the Wake Up period: the band wanted fame, needed cash, and yearned to prove their pop nous. It worked, perhaps too well: the album went straight in at No. 1 and the single 'Wake Up Boo' became both a worldwide smash and an albatross round their necks (the extended version on the 12" single is far more interesting but I still like the original), and their final albums (C'Mon Kids and Kingsize) are charming attempts to retreat to their artpop comfort zone and I'll probably never listen to them again.

Amongst the solo albums, Eggman's First Fruits is a fantastic lost album of psychedelic whimsy (complete with appearances by 18 Wheeler and Ed Ball - lovely Britpop also-rans) but it's not online, while Martin Carr's Brave Captain solo career is, well, OK in its own way.


The Gnashing Mole said...

Bonnie Tyler. you have missed Bonnie Tyler.

The Plashing Vole said...

I should stop pretending to have a decent record collection with omissions like that.

Graham Quirk said...

Quick kids, register these blogger i.d's before others inevitably do:

The Dashing Pole - A sartorially elegant eastern european with a love of reading.

The Smashing Prole - A demented and violent warrior in the class struggle, hell bent on the destruction of the bourgeois (who loves reading).

The Crashing Foal - A clumsy horse who.... well, you get it.